Bless you John Prine and Bette Midler for piercing my 20 year old heart with that song. It pulled me by the teeth to the other side of a gripping depression and became a touchstone along the way for the next 40 years. I have always worn my fried egg on the outside…proudly because of you.
Me at 20 -1978
Etching from college portfolio – 1978
So I just got off the phone with my pal Peter Follansbee. I’m throwing a link to his website here …click… so that you can spend some of that extra screen time that we all have these days to visit with him and his woodworking. He, like most of us creative types, is able to continue plying his craft and is producing some fabulous new work.
Both Peter and his wife Maureen are historians who worked at Plymoth Plantation so they have a unique perspective on the 17th century. Peter’s focus was primarily on all things wood while Maureen was the textile expert. So it was that today, when we were comparing quarantine notes in our social distancing phone chat, and I brought up my own next woodworking project… Peter said Maureen wrote an article about that. He’s gonna dig it up for me… and I’m all ears…because…
As I sat in the studio kitchen one morning last week…looking out at the same view I’ve been greeted with for over a decade…the Muses lit a match.
Spark…at the end of the walkway…the centerpiece of the Morag Gamble bed…were the washtubs that Susan gave me years ago for a planter. Deb’s begonias and a few annuals bloom there every summer and brighten that corner. And the extra light that now shines there in the wake of the giant ash tree removal last year…was apparently just what the Muses needed.
Because…wait for it…they are WASH tubs.
This was the beginning of what turned out to be Olde Timey Sunday.
Well the true beginning was actually the two hours it took me to repair the hose faucet and run a line out to the tubs. But after that …well after I had to whittle a couple stoppers out of our stash of wine corks. But THEN we got it going.
The washing part was made so much easier with those tubs. But the next stage…wringing…eh not so much. My hands aren’t strong enough any more to do that. So I did some research. Of course there is a youtube video on that…and with that help I’ve figured out a way to build a wringer. Hopefully Maureen’s article about doing laundry in the 1600’s will give me a few other pointers. I’ll keep you posted on the making of the wringer…for now you can ponder on the parts list…a rolling pin and bungy cords were ordered from Amazon and the garage will need to be cleared out enough to get to the wood stack and the tools.
It always gives me an energy boost to have a new problem to solve and a project to build, and while the clothes were drying in the sunny breeze, Herself began clearing out the greenhouse…so we could get to the spinning wheel.
A small farm in Idaho where Romney Sheep are raised and where they are kind enough to send an extra gift bag for safe storage…
One of the best days of our year is the trip in May to the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival, and one of the first dominoes to fall in our corner of this pandemic was the early cancellation of that festival. Having had to miss the last two years I was doubly sad. But social media came to the rescue and, after putting a query out to our resourceful peeps, I had several leads on where I might procure some spinning fleece.
One of the best parts of that side trip was reconnecting with Tom Knisely. A wonderful weaver friend of old who lives just over the hill from the studio and we have only now discovered that he has a new weaving/spinning retreat and workshop with his daughter Sara Bixler…oh the excitement as I get to anticipate the day when the vaccine arrives and we can go back out into the world …the very first place I will go is…
So now I’m all set.
The old wheel got some new grease. When the weather gets just a bit warmer I’ll be out there in my most peaceful place with soft silky fiber steadily spinning onto the bobbin.
The pioneering theme closed out the day with a simple quiet rise…
And there is no better way to illustrate the way that all this hand work soothes the soul …
It’s beginning to look a lot like fall around here. We have been home a month since our Vineyard visit and Granary Gallery show. A great time and very successful show was surrounded by a warm and positive energy which has been riding in my back pocket ever since.
And we needed that to get through some stressful weeks with a string of those unwelcome but generally benign hiccups that lurch your well laid plans into a different gear…or reverse in this case. Extreme heat kept me out of the garden, silly germs kept us all sick and snotty for Zoe’s camp Gran and Mima, the blue screen of death on the studio computer meant a week of tech gurus replacing one motherboard after another, and then there is…( and here I will allude to, but not elaborate on because I have a strict “NO politics in the studio rule”… the mother of all shit storms that is the current state of the nation and the planet )…but worst of all our dear Finn has been plagued with one infection after another.
None of the usual anti-depressants were working.
Putting all the bags of yarn on the daybed to plan out the coming winter of knitting…didn’t help. Getting out all the spoon carving tools and making pile after pile of shavings on the porch…wasn’t helping. Planting flats of seedlings for the fall garden and weeding out the old for the new…was hampered by the summer’s sauna.
I just couldn’t shake the blues.
As of today, most of those bumps in the road have been worked out but they wore this artist down and sent some old dragons a’ knocking at the door.
Alas, I caught them on the whisper… and realized that in spite of all the things I was trying to do to pull myself up and out of that negative space…what I really needed to do was to get myself back to my day job.
The second I sat down at the easel I felt better…lighter…centered and safe.
I have come to understand that this work that I do, the art that I create, the focus that is demanded of the process of bringing a painting to life…it is all of me. It has become what I am not just what I do. And it has an intense and powerful connection to something that is much bigger and vitally more important than Mercury going retrograde and blowing up the schedule.
It is no longer quiet listening, but a fierce reckoning with truth, and finding where it lives at the core of my soul, and then looking hard for where it lives in others. The closest I’ve come to labeling it is that “common ground”. I catch glimpses of it now and then, like a pixie winking from behind a garden shed. And more often when I stand behind someone studying one of my paintings and watch as they step closer. The noise in the gallery shuts off, and they are pulled in to a very private place. Sometimes, when they step back and notice me, they will take me where they went. Sometimes there are no words. But the recognition is there, between us, that there is some common ground.
I can think of it as a portal. Through which there is a tapestry of threads, more like live wires, and we, the artist and the patron, have found one or two that we recognize as familiar, that are alive in our own paintings as it were, and we come to see that we are not alone.
Well that is starting to get a bit tingly…like I said…the universe..or is it those muses… is shifting things around here in a most unpredictable and frustrating way…which is when I know to step out of the stream and go to a safe place.
OK I’m back now. This started out as a quick peek at the burgeoning fall garden, which is plugging along all on its own tingly threads in spite of the heat and my profound neglect.
And since, I have already articulated that the best place for me to be right now…with a tiny brush in my hand…and not playing in the dirt…I shall simply throw out these pics of this morning’s garden.
Beginning with a before shot of the Ruth Stout Memorial Arch to compare with the opening photo of today’s vining mess. You will see that the black eyed susan vines are finally thriving but the morning glory (mostly on the right) are insane…with nary a blossom.
Here it is again…before
In general I am very pleased with the RS bed experiment so far. I will elaborate in future posts but here are some random updates…
WE HAVE A LUFFA !!!
Finally. You can see how showy this vine has become. It has smothered the tunnel and begun to invade the lower forty…
looking back it is on the right
Here it frames the now almost cleared potato run…as it waddles on over to make an annex out of the old pea trellis.
Back at the far end of the bed you get a whole lot of rotting tomatoes and a fair supply of peppers showered by Pat’s zinnias…
A row of bags and boxes are mostly cleared of the failed onions with some lingering leeks…
Walking outside and into the raised bed area it’s the sweet potatoes that have taken the lead…
Three bags full, they hold some promise but it will be a month or more before I peek. The second planting of cucumbers are fighting off the squash bugs and going strong…
The beans have only now begun to provide enough for a meal for two…
Underneath that tunnel are some newly planted carrots and broccoli …
And the brussel sprouts and parsnips are roaring in the back bed…
On the backside of this very large array is the sad state of the strawberry beds, I am flummoxed at the heavy invasion of grasses and weeds which have taken over every single bed. I’ve weeded this bed intensely 4 times this summer !!! and look at the mess.
Back in civilization…
the new herb beds are doing well…
and the salad bed is once again producing lettuces and spinach…
After taking this pic I pulled a couple of those radishes, and then I yanked them all because I found cabbage worms on each one and a heavy infestation of baby aphids. They all went to the bucket of death. Now Herself can come and pick her lunch in peace.
And that leaves the best part of the garden for last…
Miss Finnegan is starting to feel better. These cooler mornings are just the ticket for a Bernese Mt. Dog. She lays here on the shaded cement and supervises my ramblings while she waits for her buddy to come over and take her for a ride around the neighborhood. Her favorite thing is to turn left out of that gate and jump into the car.
As I write this she and her buddy are getting ready for the tennis finals. Finn lays in front of the TV and as soon as the ball is hit she follows it. She got bored with all those double faults in the match last night but has a special fondness for Nadal, so she’s looking forward to his forehand.
And there we have it. A winding look into the labyrinth that, for my sins, is my world this month.
Now I’m headed to the kitchen for some lunch, and then up for one more cone at Reeser’s, and then back to the easel…
Yours in brilliant blazes of Mexican sunflowers, hovering hummingbirds… and finally flying brushes,
In this, the season of light, In these, the darkest of days, I listen to Leonard, and my muses familiar, who whisper come and sit by your easel, the stillness just there… slowly and together we will remember how to listen.
It’s not quite this white outside my studio window, but the valley is peaceful and the tracks are there, we just can’t see them right now.
New paintings are varnished and Herself delivered them to the amazing John Corcoran, he won’t mind me showing off his new website… click here . He will do his magic, as he does with every one of my paintings, and make a digital record before it heads back here for framing and then off to the designated gallery, or patron.
The early morning studio delivery wagon has just pulled out of the drive with the final tubes and boxes from our winter workshop.
The teakettle is rattling on its way to boil for the first thermos of darjeeling of the day.
A brand new panel is up on the easel, with sketch ready to transfer. Palette ready for some fresh new paints. Curtain pulled back and the view in the painting above is what I have beside me, and all I need is before me.
An email has just come in from Peggy, her thought for today for the artiste,
“Art should be like a holiday: something to give a man the opportunity to see things differently and to change his point of view.” Paul Klee
It certainly feels like a holiday here, the spirits of solstice are sparkling and the view is open to change.
This morning Finn and I took advantage of a warm spell and walked around the yard filling the bird feeders. I had been heeding the woodland warnings not to put out seed until the bears are hibernating. I have never, repeat never, seen a bear in my yard… but lately, I seem to be leaning into the winds of caution.
At the end of the path, just before the lilac bushes, we found this feather…
It’s about 6 inches long and the tips on the right side are dipped in a burnt sienna which the sun wants to make red. The top, which is at the bottom of this photo, is a mottled grey. I first thought of a red tailed hawk. Possibly a big owl ? But my heart wants it to be a Hawk.
Peter will know, or possibly his friend Marie, and most probably several others of you out there…so I decided to toss it to the cyber winds for some helpful answer.
It’s so beautiful, on it’s own, against the creamy ivory of my journal, and I am grateful to the muses for this gift of Advent.
Celebrating the season of long winter nights and welcomingly fragrant evergreens, a grateful return to my seat at the easel, the twinkling of colored lights, newsletters from loved ones, the trail of cookie crumbs from studio to cabin…and back, and the sparkle in the eyes of our sweet lapdog Finnegan who is thoroughly enjoying the frosty morning walks with her buddy.
Wishing you all manner of love and laughter and light…
My favorite moment of the spring is when this rose bush first blooms. It was brought back to my studio oh so many years ago as a tiny off shoot from one of the grand dames of rugosas that bloom on the bluff in Chilmark. Now it is happily filling out the entrance way to the yard and this week it is full of welcoming wafting aromas that take me right back to the ocean.
As I am grinding away at the easel, burning the candle at both ends of the day to get the last paintings done for the Granary show in July, it is such a gift to see these roses and a much needed reminder that the treasures of that peaceful island are just there… on the edge of this spring breeze.
Today there will be a memorial service in Naples, Florida in memory of my father. The members of his church, friends and some family, will gather to celebrate his life and bury his ashes along side those of his wife Ann.
Here in Pennsylvania it is the first really cold and frosty day but the October sun is shining strong and lighting up the colors of the season. I’m heading up to the lake to take a walk in my own church.
In my absence, our dear friend Martha Forbes will be reading this passage which I wrote for the service…
Growing up as the young children of a minister it was sometimes be a bit confusing when, sitting in the front pew and trying to follow along, the congregation would arrived at the point in the service when it was time to recite the Lord’s Prayer.
“Our Father” was actually not in heaven; he was standing right there in front of
everybody and usually winking at us…usually.
Today…for us… that prayer, resonates with new meaning.
smile. At his bedside, in those last few hours we had together, I searched the bookshelf
on his ipad for something soothing and meaningful to read to him. What I found was
Winnie the Pooh.
It seems we had come full circle. He had read that to us on our first days…and I read it to
Bob Good was given the gift of two families of children. The six of us drew together
as one family to ease his passing and to celebrate his life.
Our father was a scholar and a writer and as fond of fine literature as he was quick
him on his last. He told me once that I never made it past the first few pages when it was
my bedtime. He didn’t either.
So, this then… for the lover of words and pencils… and of course breakfast… is what
comes at the end of the story…
“This party, said Christopher Robin, is a party because of what someone did, and
we all know who it was, and it’s his party, because of what he did and I’ve got a present
for him and here it is…
It’s for Pooh…the best bear in all the world.”
When Pooh saw what it was he nearly fell down, he was so pleased. It was a
Special Pencil Case. There were pencils in it marked “B” for Bear, and pencils marked
“HB” for Helping Bear, and pencils marked “BB: for Brave Bear. There was a knife for
sharpening the pencils, and india-rubber for rubbing out anything which you had spelt
wrong, and a ruler for ruling lines for the words to walk on, and inches marked on the
ruler in case you wanted to know how many inches anything was, and Blue Pencils and
Red Pencils and Green Pencils for saying special things in blue and red and green. And all
these lovely things were in little pockets of their own in a Special Case which shut with a
click when you clicked it. And they were all for Pooh.
“Oh ! “ said Pooh.
“Oh, Pooh ! “ said everybody except Eeyore.
“Thank – you, “ growled Pooh.
But Eeyore was saying to himself, “This writing business. Pencils and what-not.
Over-rated, if you ask me. Silly stuff. Nothing in it.”
Later on, when they had all said “Good-bye” and “Thank-you” to Christopher
Robin, Pooh and Piglet walked home thoughtfully together in the golden evening, and for
a long time they were silent.
“When you wake up in the morning, Pooh,” said Piglet at last, “what’s the first thing
you say to yourself?”
“What’s for breakfast,” said Pooh. “What do you say, Piglet?”
“I say, I wonder what’s going to happen exciting today ?” said Piglet.
It has been a little over a week since my father died and there seems to be an endless stream of logistics to attend to, paperwork to be filled out, emails to answer and to write, and thoughtful considerations to be made by a caring committee of siblings.
Woven through the long hours in the day has been a gossamer thin thread of sadness. It’s soft and shiny enough that I only catch glimpses of it through the haze and weariness of dealing with all the details of death. Living with a hospice nurse for twenty years means I recognize it as grief. But knowing that it is my father who holds its fragile and faraway end has a sharper edge about it than all the other times I’ve seen it. This one is amber in color…with an Old Holland Red Gold Lake glaze…and has both a startling beauty and a staggering pain.
So, while I know it’s there and see that it’s trying to catch my attention, I am busy right now.
It’s been hard to concentrate at the easel. I’m finding just how much the creative act of painting draws from my deepest emotional pools. It doesn’t surprise me that now, when those emotions are so much closer to the surface, they have such a direct line from the heart to the brush.
So I’ve chosen to do some large muscle therapy.
Finn has been getting me up with the first birdsongs well before the sun rises and we’ve been spending those first cooler hours of the day doing the heavy lifting of turning the compost into the garden soil and getting the beds ready for planting. To Finnegan’s great pleasure we have a plethera of plastic pots. The best dog toy in the world…for our Finn…is a black plastic plant bucket. She will amuse us all for hours with those treasures. I will not embarrass her by sharing my favorite pic of her with one of them on her head like the proverbial lightshade but you get the idea that my gardening obsession is feeding her playful spirit as well as brightening up our yard…
Here in this corner of the planet we are three weeks past the last frost date. Our most tender vegetables should be into their teens by now. I am catching up. I recycled the wood that the roofers left behind in December and have made 5 new raised beds. The greenhouse bed is now in it’s second planting since the ridiculous heatwave has bolted most of the greens…
The best neighbors in the world, Sue and daughter Zola, drove their tractor over this weekend and…while Zola minded the best friend pups, Jed and Finnegan…Sue and Pat and I hauled a huge pile of soil up to the top of the yard. The next day I framed it in with the roofing scraps and made a bed which will nourish some watermelons this summer and, in the fall, will be planted as our long awaited asparagus bed.
We’ve expanded the vegetable garden in some unusual ways…
These back beds are producing peas faster than we can eat them this week… and yesterday I planted bush beans, watermelon, tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, onions, and runner beans…
And then there’s the great potato bag experiment…went a bit overboard here… so I’m told…
And the roses, oh the roses, they are doing such a good job of lifting my spirits…
And the greatest gift of all… from Gulliver. I inherited this rose bush from the previous owner. For the last three years it has been eight inches tall and only bloomed once. One single flower. Until I put Gulliver’s wind chime there, just outside of my easel window. Now look at it. Gully likes it when I sit in this chair all by myself in the morning. She rings loud and long to let me know that she’s still got my back.
Finnegan is listening to her too…and learning from both her predecessors how to take good care of me.